• France edition
 
Brussels threatens France over Roma policy
Roma families on the street of a French town after their camp is forcibly closed by police. Photo: AFP

Brussels threatens France over Roma policy

Published: 25 Sep 2013 15:43 GMT+02:00
Updated: 25 Sep 2013 15:43 GMT+02:00

The European Commission was forced once again on Wednesday to threaten sanctions against France over its policy towards the Roma community, sending a reminder to Paris that the minority were citizens of the EU and therefore free to go where they want.

“Free movement as freedom to reside in another country are fundamental rights. If these principles enshrined in the treaties are not met, then the commission will use all means at its disposal,” to sanction such violations, warned spokesman Olivier Bailly.

“The Roma, like all EU citizens, enjoy the right to freedom of movement in all EU member states and to reside in a country other than their country of origin,” Bailly added.

This is not the first time Brusels has sent a warning to Paris. Three years ago the Commission's Vice President Viviane Reding sent a similar threat to former president Nicolas Sarkozy that Roma expulsions had to stop.

But camp evictions have continued and even increased under the Socialist government. The Roma question, which is rarely off the political agenda in France flared up again this week, thanks in the main to some inflammatory words by the country's Interior Minister Manuel Valls.

Valls  insisted on Wednesday that he stood by a controversial call for tens of thousands of ethnic Roma to be kicked out of France.

Valls has triggered an outcry from human rights groups, the European Commission and some of his government colleagues by saying any Roma not working should be "delivered back to the borders", describing their way of life as "extremely different from ours," and claiming they will never integrate into French society.

The latter remark earned the minister a rebuke from his cabinet colleague, Arnaud Montebourg, who pointedly alluded to Valls' own status as the Barcelona-born son of Spanish immigrants who left for France during Franco's dictatorship.

"A theory that such and such a person or such and such a people will never, ever be able to integrate just doesn't stand up," Montebourg said.

"That's what they said about the Italians, that's what they said about the Spanish, it's what they said about the Portuguese, and what they said about the Arabs.

"Decreeing in advance that it is impossible seems to me excessive and is worthy of being corrected."

Valls hit back: "I've got nothing to correct. My remarks only shock those who don't know the subject."

He then repeated remarks that Amnesty International described as likely to "perpetuate stereotypes and encourage animosity" towards the 20,000 plus Roma currently living in France in makeshift camps.

"The majority (of Roma) should be delivered back to the borders," Valls said. "We are not here to welcome these people. I'd remind you of (former Socialist premier) Michel Rocard's statement: It's not France's job to deal with the misery of the whole world."

On Tuesday he had claimed the Roma in France had no interest in integrating, reiterating previous assertions that most of them were at the mercy of begging and prostitution networks.

The European Commission has repeatedly questioned the legality of the government encouraging local councils to systematically dismantle illegal Roma camps and offering the expelled residents free flights and financial incentives to return to their countries of origin, primarily Bulgaria and Romania.

The policy has also been criticised by the UN's human rights arm. 

Under pressure from the EU and what the daily Liberation described as the "humanist" wing of the government, Valls agreed last year that Roma camp clearances should not take place without alternative housing plans being put in place first.

But that policy has rarely been applied and 80 percent of the 12,000 Roma expelled from their temporary homes in 2012 were forced to leave, the European Association for the Defence of Human Rights (AEDH) said in a report earlier this year.

Valls maintains that forced evictions are preferable to tolerating squalid, insanitary camps and has defended repatriations as a better alternative than allowing Roma in France to continue working for organised criminal gangs.

But his approach has been criticised as a waste of money by France's public spending watchdog.

Despite thousands of government-financed repatriations, the numbers of Roma in France have remained stable, reflecting the reality that anyone flown back to Romania or Bulgaria can immediately return to France under EU freedom of movement laws.

Don't miss stories like this - join us on Facebook and Twitter.

AFP/The Local (ben.mcpartland@thelocal.com)

Don't miss...X
Left Right

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Uproar over sale of 'jihadist book' in France
'Islamist propaganda' sold in mainstream French stores has sparked controversy. Photo: Screengran/Amazon

Uproar over sale of 'jihadist book' in France

An apparent nondescript book called “The Way of the Muslim,” which is on sale in 1,000 stores across France, contains incitement to holy war and encourages killing “heretics” leading to uproar and calls for the text to be pulled. READ  

France hands over 'Jewish museum shooter'
Mehdi Nemmouche, the suspect in the Jewish museum shooting in Belgium has been handed over to authorities in Brussels. Photo: AFP

France hands over 'Jewish museum shooter'

French police handed over Mehdi Nemmouche to their counterparts in Brussels on Tuesday. Nemmouche is suspected of shooting dead four people at a Jewish museum in the Belgian capital in May. READ  

France set to pull its nationals out of Libya
Libyan security services and civilians gather across the street after a car bomb attack on the French embassy in Tripoli, Libya on April 23rd, 2013. Photo: Mahmud Turkia/AFP

France set to pull its nationals out of Libya

Amid an increasingly dangerous environment in Libya, France has decided to evacuate its nationals for their safety, according to reports on Tuesday. France's decision comes amid warnings and similar evacuations of other foreigners from the strife-torn North African nation. READ  

Nibbling rats blamed for French rail crash
The rear of a TGV train after it was hit by a regional TER train in south western France on Thursday. Photo: Mehdi Fedouach/AFP

Nibbling rats blamed for French rail crash

Rats nibbling at signalling cables led to a crash between two passenger trains that injured 40 people in south-west France earlier this month, a new report has announced. And signal failure is not the only problem being blamed on rats this week. READ  

Eurostar to start London-Marseille direct train
Eurostar is going to start direct train service from London to Marseilles. Photo: Philippe Huguen/AFP

Eurostar to start London-Marseille direct train

Getting from London to France's sunny Mediterranean coast is about to get a lot easier because Eurostar has announced it'll start direct service to Marseille next year. READ  

Sarkozy targeted by 'new criminal probe'
Ex-French President Nicolas Sarkozy is the subject of yet another criminal probe. Photo: Valery Hache/AFP

Sarkozy targeted by 'new criminal probe'

Media reports on Tuesday claimed yet another criminal investigation has been launched against ex-President Nicolas Sarkozy, surrounding funding for 2007 presidnetial election campaign. But prosecutors have denied an investigation has been opened. READ  

EU to impose new sanctions on Russia
EU and the US are to impose new sanctions on Russia after their leaders agreed Moscow had done nothing to decrease tensions in the Ukraine. Photo: AFP

EU to impose new sanctions on Russia

France and its fellow EU powers along with the US agreed on the need to impose new sanctions on Russia over its presumed role in Ukraine's insurgency, the French presidency said on Monday. The sanctions should be finalised on Tuesday and will come into force shortly. READ  

Peach wars: French fury over Spanish dumping
French fruit growers unload a truck of Spanish peaches onto the road as the "peach war" between the two countries heats up. Photo: Raymond Roig/AFP

Peach wars: French fury over Spanish dumping

France has gone on the offensive in what is starting to look like an increasngly bitter "peach war" against Spain after authorities stepped up the number of checks on trucks carrying fruit across the border. READ  

French envoy's New York home search scuppered
Neighbours in a swanky New York apartment block have scuppered the hopes of France's ambassador to land a new home. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

French envoy's New York home search scuppered

France's ambassador to the United Nations is struggling to find a new home in New York after his attempts to buy a palatial 14-room apartment ran into trouble with prospective neighbours, who were concerned about the number of parties he would have. READ  

Mayor files complaint against 'reckless' US dad
A French mayor has filed a complaint against an American father for tying to climb Mont Blanc with his kids. Photo: screengrab ABC news

Mayor files complaint against 'reckless' US dad

A French mayor has logded a formal complaint against an American father whose "vain" attempt to break a world record by taking his kids to the summit of Mont Blanc almost ended in disaster. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
National
From manure to money: Ten bizarre facts about the French Parliament
Culture
Tourists picnic with rats in Louvre gardens
International
Is France really Europe's biggest public spenders?
National
Could your job in France soon be done by a robot?
National
Why you should think twice about feeding stray cats in France
National
And the new redrawn map of France will look like...?
Politics
Is French President François Hollande about to tie the knot?
International
Want a long-term visa? You may soon have to take a French test
International
Votes for foreigners: 'France would be giving up its sovereignty'
National
VIDEO: Stuntman jumps onto a moving Paris metro... and survives
Gallery
Forget 'faire l'amour', here's 15 top French expressions for making love
National
Report - 'Anti-Semitic' riots in France: 'We may leave for Israel'
National
Paris Plages: Here's 10 reasons to head down to the city beach
International
'Mont Blanc is like Disneyland. It's time to end the free-for-all'
Travel
Fancy climbing Mont Blanc? Here's 10 reasons to think twice about it
Gallery
Looking for a weird museum in Paris? Here's 10 that are worth a visit
National
Clear your head: Eight tips for buying wine in a French supermarket
National
'Don't blame the labour market for France's unemployment woes!'
National
Job applicants in France: Be prepared to send in an anonymous CV
Sport
'Bouligans' to booze bans: Ten things you need to know about pétanque
Gallery
Driving in France: How to stay out of trouble on the roads
Travel
Ten essential free phone apps for a visit to Paris
Gallery
Like cycling? Love France? See the top ten best cycling routes in France
Sponsored Article
CurrencyFair: Why it pays when making overseas transfers
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se